St. James of the Marches, O.F.M., (ca. 1391 – 28 November 1476) an Italian Friar Minor, preacher and writer.
THE SMALL town of Montbrandon, in the Marca of Ancona, the ancient Picenum, a province of the ecclesiastical state in Italy, gave birth to this saint. His parents, though of low condition, were very virtuous, and educated him in sentiments of true piety and religion. A neighbouring priest taught him Latin, and he was young when he was sent to the university of Perugia, where his progress in learning soon qualified him to be chosen preceptor to a young gentleman of Florence. This student’s father, who was a magistrate of that city, was much taken with the virtue and prudence of our saint, engaged him to accompany his son to Florence, and procured him a considerable post in that republic. St. James observed, that in the hurry of worldly business men easily forget to converse sufficiently with God and themselves, and that shutting themselves up in it, they become part of that vortex which hurries time and the world away without looking any further: also, that whilst we hear continually the discourse of men, we are apt insensibly to take in, and freight ourselves with the vices of men. Against these dangers, persons who live in the world, must use the antidote of conversing much with God. This James did by assiduous prayer and recollection, in which exercises he found such charms that he resolved to embrace a religious and penitential life. These were the dispositions of his soul when, travelling near Assisium, he went into the great church of the Portiuncula to pray, and being animated by the fervour of the holy religious men who there served God, and by the example of their blessed founder St. Francis, he determined to petition in that very place for the habit of the Order. The brethren received him with open arms, and he was sent to perform his novitiate in a small austere convent near Assisium,called, Of the Prisons. He began his spiritual war against the devil, the world, and the flesh, with assiduous prayer, and extraordinary fasts and watchings: and the fervour of his first beginnings was, by his fidelity in corresponding with divine grace, crowned with such constancy and perseverance as never to suffer any abatement. After the year of his probation was completed he returned to the Portiuncula, and by his solemn vows offered himself a holocaust to God. For forty years he never passed a day without taking the discipline; he always wore either a rough hair shirt, or an iron coat of mail armed with short sharp spikes; allowing himself only three hours for sleep he spent the rest of the night in holy meditation and prayer: flesh meat he never touched, and he ate so little that it seemed a miracle how he could live. He said mass every day with wonderful devotion. Out of a true spirit of humility and penance he was a great lover of poverty, and it was a subject of joy to him to see himself often destitute of the most necessary things. He copied for himself most of the few books he allowed himself the use of, and he always wore a mean threadbare habit. His purity during the course of his whole life was spotless; and he shunned as much as possible all conversation with persons of the other sex, and made this very short, when it was necessary for their spiritual direction; and he never looked any woman in the face. In the practice of obedience he was so exact, that, once having received an order to go abroad, when he had lifted up the cup near his mouth to drink he set it down again, and went out immediately without drinking; for he was afraid to lose the merit of obedience by the least delay.
James was buried in Naples in the Franciscan church of St. Maria la Nuova, but his body was moved recently to Chiesa del Convento di Monteprandone. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
Naples, Italy venerates him as one of its patron saints.
Recently (1st to 3rd November 2008) his body which is preserved beneath an altar was subject to scientific investigation at the University of Pisa. (see pictures below)